‘Well-being’ has become a high-profile and contested issue, for both policy and practice, since its introduction as an integral part of the Care Act (2014). A dynamic and fluid concept, the researchers were interested in how qualified social workers conceptualise concept of well-being. This small-scale qualitative study, arising from a partnership between a university and a local authority within England, explored how social workers, in one adult social work service, conceptualized ‘well-being’ in relation to service users who both did have the mental capacity, and also those who lacked capacity, to make informed decisions in relation to their care and support needs. The researchers adopted an interpretivist, qualitative approach to the research and used thematic analysis of the rich data arising from individual and group discussions. Interesting differences emerged that, we propose, related to the practitioners’ dominant ‘cognitive style’ or over-arching approach to considering how individuals, with and without capacity, defined their own well-being, becoming more risk-averse when considering the well-being (as defined within the Care Act 2014) of an individual who lacked capacity. Whilst local authorities have a duty under the Care Act to promote an individual’s well-being, firmly locating the well-being principle at the heart of adult social work assessments, it is important to remember that this is a concept that is mainly self-defined. However, the ways in which practitioners conceptualise well-being influence both how they approach an assessment, and indeed how they seek to build relationships with the person being assessed. Bringing the different cognitive styles to practitioners’ attention, we believe, provides an opportunity to challenge their own and their colleagues’ biases, whether systemic or individual, and free them to embrace the fluidity of experience and well-being, for all individuals seeking to access services.
- The Care Act
- mental capacity